Posts Tagged ‘Blog Launch Posting’

In a Nutshell, Three Elements to Launch 2012’s Writing Year:

1. The third annual Writer’s Digest Conference begins tomorrow (January 20) at the Sheraton in Manhattan, and I am extremely excited, as usual! Those of you who are familiar with this blog understand my affinity for this particular conference and the impact that the first conference in September 2009 had upon my publishing decisions relative to my second novel (Separation of Faith). That first conference also marked the motivating moment for the launch of this blog, among other social media outreach activities.

Throughout the multiplying years in which I’ve been pursuing this literary dream, I have no idea how many sizes and shapes of conferences I’ve attended. A bunch, for certain! And a number of those were actually produced every year by Writer’s Digest in conjunction with Book Expo America (BEA), the publishing industry’s annual convention event. But Writer’s Digest broke away from BEA in 2009 and began holding their own conference. And that’s when everything changed for me. You can read about the reason’s for the metamorphosis in this blog’s Launch posting (https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/hello-world/).

Since then, the WD conference has become the best one out there, in my opinion. For writers in search of the truth about the publishing world and practical information/tools that help us navigate through that world, this conference is “the” place to be. If you’d like to explore the conference agenda and sessions, here’s a quick link: http://www.writersdigestconference.com/ehome/27962/52254/?&. And for those of you with a sustained interest, I’ll be blogging throughout the three days, giving you the inside scoop from the sessions I attend and from other attendees and presenters with whom I have the opportunity to chat.

Regarding the Pitch Slam session on Saturday afternoon, I’m not sure yet if I’ll be pitching. Part of that decision will depend on how I’m feeling (see point #3 below). If I do pitch, I’ll be focusing on my nonfiction project, which isn’t finished (nonfiction books don’t need to be finished before pitching, but I’d prefer that mine were). Still, if I’m feeling empowered by Saturday afternoon, I might run the project by a few of those agents just for the practice. At this writing, I’m fairly certain that I want to move forward with that project on my own, publishing an e-book first followed by print options. I’ll know more about that direction once the conference is over, since I’m attending several sessions on how writers can navigate the wild and ever-changing publishing world on their own. Stay tuned for my blog posts on the subject as the conference unfolds. If you happen to be at the conference yourself, please let me know so we can connect somewhere!

The opening address will begin at 4:00 p.m. EST. You’ll be on my mind! 🙂

2. New Year’s Inspiration can be found almost everywhere we look as writers. People in my life are constantly telling me about someone they know who’s in some sort of jam that could be tweaked and woven into a novel’s plot or subplot. And I recently sat at the pharmacy for 90 minutes where I observed no less than a half dozen interpersonal scenarios that could be spun into fun stories. If we’re alert, there will never be a shortage of material. But as 2012 gets underway and we are all still focusing on our resolutions, I’d like to share a few links I’ve been collecting that I hope will offer you a nudge, an idea, or a little inspiration, if you’re in search of such things.

Please let me know if you find anything helpful in these lists. Since creating consistency in my writing routine is one of my 2012 resolutions, I have the “Reboot” list posted on the wall close by.

3. Where Am I in the Treatment Part of My Life? Currently, I’m in the middle of Round #5 (of 6). The effects became noticeably cumulative, beginning with Round #4, so I’ve been struggling a bit, especially through the holidays. But the good news is that #6 will happen on January 30, followed by the standard three weeks of not-so-hot, which will then be followed by … nothing else! Yay! When this process began with Round #1 on October 13, today’s point on the calendar looked like a millennium away. And yet, here we are, about a month away from being completely finished with the process. And I’m going to the Writer’s Digest Conference, which I wasn’t sure I could make even a few days ago. Lots of blessings to start the New Year!

Two more photos are attached, both of which were taken a week before Christmas. These images seem to be a good way to mark the progress of this journey within a journey.

All the best to each of you as the New Year becomes fully launched. Wishing for each of you that your dreams come true in 2012! Talk to you soon from the conference!

Holiday Thoughts & New Year’s Wishes

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First, I’m Late …

Hi! My apologies for not being around very much over the past few weeks. This blog’s first anniversary was on November 4, and I had planned to publish this post on that day. However, another unexpected medical situation arose in late September and then accelerated through October. Long story short, I was in surgery again on November 3 and wasn’t able to work for the next several days. During that time, things piled up … and, well, here we are. This new medical “thing” is unrelated to the breast cancer, which is going to be fine. But there will be some sort of further “something” required to totally flatten this new one, and I’m supposed to know what that “something” is by the 19th.

Meanwhile, I’m celebrating the first anniversary of this blog in a number of ways. Right off the top, I’ve added a blog roll to the site where I’ve listed the blog/Web site addresses for all of the wonderful acquaintances I’ve made over the last year. Everyone on that list is going after the same dream in one way or another, and re-reading the comments from everyone has been fascinating and heartwarming at the same time. I can’t believe how many lives have intersected with mine over twelve months through this medium, and I’m unbelievably grateful for each one!

Another way that I’m celebrating the blog’s first anniversary is by reflecting on the original mission (established in the November 4, 2009 Blog Launch Posting). There were several goals:

  1. Complete and publish my second novel, Separation of Faith, and that objective was gloriously met in mid September (a little behind the original schedule, but met nonetheless).
  2. Completely re-edit my first novel, The Truth About Cinnamon, and then publish the shiny new Second Edition. We’re about two weeks away from the fulfillment of that objective. All of the edits and reviews are complete, so we’re just waiting for the book to go live everywhere. I’ll let you know the moment that happens.
  3. Share through the blog all of the steps involved to accomplish the first two objectives, including the things that went wrong as well as the things that went smoothly. (And some of those steps where things went wrong turned into full-blown stories themselves, if you have time to check out the posts sequentially.) Throughout the process, the subject of editing and the critical importance of that element emerged as a fourth goal.
  4. Ensure the highest quality possible in terms of both editing and writing, especially for Separation of Faith. After a huge amount of effort and about five additional months that I hadn’t calculated in the plan, that second novel earned the Editor’s Choice designation from my publisher (iUniverse), a level achieved by fewer than 10% of books they publish. The Second Edition of The Truth About Cinnamon wasn’t submitted to as much rigor, but I cut out 20,000 words and tightened things up substantially without changing any of the original story.
  5. Share tips, articles, other bloggers’ posts, and any relevant/interesting information I might come acoss to help fellow writers on the same path. Toward the end of this anniversary post, there will be another list of things to share that I’ve been collecting.


As I was reviewing the November 4, 2009 post, several points and passages stood out as being major reasons behind my starting this whole thing in the first place:

  1. I was close to finishing my second novel, but I had no idea which publishing direction I wanted to pursue. Then I attended the first annual Writer’s Digest Conference in September 2009 where the realities of the publishing world today were painted very graphically for us. (All of that is covered in detail in the November 4, 2009 lauch posting.)
  2. In the opening address of the conference, the speaker (Mike Shatzkin) told us that, in today’s publishing environment, our books, no matter how fabulous, are completely irrelevant if we don’t already have a clearly defined platform and a foundational readership/following in place before we ever submit a query letter. In the same address, Shatzkin also let us in on a little secret: The first thing that happens now in the agent’s/editor’s office is that someone (a staffer, most likely) Googles the name of the writer sending the query letter. If nothing shows up that demonstrates some sort of following or platform already in place–one that’s relevant to the author and the book being queried–a rejection letter/postcard is generally sent out immediately, with no further exploration of the writer’s actual writing. WELL … since I was one of those writers who’d been resisting the all-time-consuming entry in the land of social media, the fact that I had a problem was rather obvious–thus the launch of this blog and everything else that’s happened over the last year, all chronicled herein for the perusal of interested parties.

As an aside–and as I mentioned in a posting a couple of weeks ago–the second Writer’s Digest convention is happening in January (21st-23rd). If you’re only going to attend one conference in your life (or if you haven’t been to one in awhile), this is the one. Check out the details at: http://www.writersdigest.com/conferences-events/. If you decide to attend, let me know. I’d love to connect with you while we’re there!

How’s Separation of Faith Doing?

Great, I think (especially since I’ve had two major surgeries in the seven weeks since the novel was released). Amazon rankings go up and down. (I can follow them hourly on my Amazon author site, but that can really drive a person nuts, so I don’t do that anymore.) I won’t know the exact number of books sold for awhile, since all I get at the moment are rankings, and I won’t receive my first royalty statement until the end of this quarter. But the reviews coming in, from both individuals and review sites, are all wonderful. If you haven’t been there yet, I invite you to check those reviews out at http://www.amazon.com/Separation-Faith-Novel-Cheri-Laser/dp/1450232183/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1289665738&sr=1-1.

At first, the hard cover was outselling the paperback, and then that reversed. So far, the best ranking has been 60,963 for the paperback at 2:00 pm on October 31. And to show you how fast the numbers can change, the hard cover had crept up to 1,707,759 on the morning of November 9. But at 3:30 that afternoon when I checked again, the hard cover was at 152,959. I don’t know yet how many books that represented, but the change was stunning (and very exciting).

One of the things I’ve learned in the last seven weeks of promotion is that if I don’t prime the pump every single day through some combination of activities–blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, tag surfing, etc.–absolutely nothing–zip, zero, nada–happens. And since we’re all responsible these days for the promotion of our books, regardless of whether we publish traditionally or otherwise, building that sales record is a huge challenge.

There is supposedly a point–if we’re putting a great story out there that’s meticulously edited, and if we’re promoting that book in some fashion seven days a week–where the momentum will become somewhat self-propelling, at least for awhile. But everything I’ve read and heard from the experts says that a minimum of six to eight months of concerted effort (and probably longer) is required before any sort of buzz can become self-sustaining for any period of time.

So, we march forward! Things like this posting by Glenda Bixler (a reviewer) on Facebook today can be incredibly uplifting when you start thinking that you’re never going to get “there”: http://gabixlerreviews-bookreadersheaven.blogspot.com/2010/11/cheri-lases-latest-is-separation-of.html.

When I look back through all the postings on this blog over the last year, though, I realize that an enormous amount has been accomplished, and I’m very grateful to be where I am (which is a millenium further than I was when I walked into that 2009 Writer’s Digest conference).

Some Information to Share with You

I’ve been accumulating these links for a few months now. Because, in addition to promoting Separation of Faith, bringing out a new edition of The Truth About Cinnamon, and being stuck in a surgical revolving door, I’m also trying to get started on my third novel, I’m drawn more to articles about writing now than I am to those about publishing and promoting, for the moment anyway. And I realized that I’d unknowingly been collecting lists, which I’m putting in numerical order for you, just for fun. Hopefully, one, some, or all of these links will prove useful to you as well:

  1. Five questions to ask yourself before you start revising: http://elanajohnson.blogspot.com/2010/08/questions-to-ask-yourself-before-you.html.
  2. Six personality types who will succeed as writers: http://victoriamixon.com/2010/07/13/6-personality-types-who-will-succeed-as-writers/.
  3. The ten commandments of fiction writing: http://www.writersdigest.com/article/The_10_Commandments_of_Fiction_Writing/.
  4. Janet Fitch’s 10 rules for writers: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2010/07/janet-fitchs-10-rules-for-writers.html.
  5. 11 plot pitfalls and how to rescue your story from them: http://www.writersdigest.com/article/rescue-your-story-from-plot-pitfalls/.
  6. 12 dos and don’ts for making the first page of your novel more compelling: http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2010/08/act-first-explain-later.html.
  7. Secret emotional triggers for your writing: http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/07/18/SecretEmotionalTriggersForYourWritingCapitolCityWritersRecap.aspx.
  8. You can learn as much from writing friends as writing experts: http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/08/24/YouCanLearnAsMuchFromWritingFriendsAsWritingExperts.aspx.
  9. How to write the ending of your novel: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2010/08/09/how-to-write-the-ending/.

Then, because the editing of our books is so unbelievably important (poor or inadequate editing will eliminate a book from contests and consideration by agents/editors, and will cause readers to put the book down, just to name a few things that will happen), I’m including a couple of links to articles about editing:

  1. The myth of the evil editor: http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2010/07/myth-of-evil-editor.html.
  2. A 4th of July lesson in the value of editors: http://writingfordigital.com/2010/07/04/a-fourth-of-july-lesson-in-the-value-of-editors/.

And lastly, for those of us intent on pursuing the traditional publishing path through agents and editors, here are two enlightening links:

  1. What writers wish they’d known before pitching: http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/07/29/WhatWritersWishTheydKnownBeforePitching.aspx.
  2. How to ensure 75% of agents will request your material:  http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/08/16/HowToEnsure75OfAgentsWillRequestYourMaterial.aspx.

Hopefully, you’ll find these tips as interesting and useful as I did/do/will.

In Closing

As I wrap up this first anniversary blog posting, I want to thank everyone I’ve encountered over the last year for the wealth of information and the generosity of spirit I’ve come to know in the writing community. As significant as this year has been, I have great hope that the next year will be even better for each of us. And I’d like to close with the last passage from my November 4, 2009 blog launch posting:

“I believe very strongly that there’s enough room in this dream for all of us, but we need to get our arms around the realities of the publishing world and then take control of our own destinies. Here’s to the journey!”

Have a great weekend. I’ll look forward to talking with you soon.

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4th Serialized Issue of Cinnamon Available for Downloading

Monday is here again already, and so is the 4th issue of The Truth About Cinnamon‘s free serialization for your downloading and reading pleasure. 🙂 http://www.filedby.com/author/cheri_laser/2721580/documents/25379887/

There are a number of other things I’d like to talk about today, but I’m trying to finish up the final edit of Separation of Faith so I can check off that part of the plan by submitting the manuscript to the publisher by tomorrow or Wednesday, at the latest. As soon as I complete the edit, I’ll be back here to add to this post and to do some tag surfing, which has become one of my new favorite things.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a holiday today, I hope you’re having fun with the extra time. Later …

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Hitch a Ride on the Experience of Others

One of the books I purchased at that goal-altering conference last September (see Blog Launch Post from November 4) is Get Known before the Book Deal by Christina Katz (http://christinakatz.com/about/). Ms. Katz was also a speaker at the conference and, although I was thoroughly impressed and anxious to learn from her, I realized just the other day that I hadn’t even opened her book yet. Fortunately, all of my books are now unpacked and on the book shelf in my new office, so I went right to Get Known before the Book Deal and began reading.

The whole experiment underlying this blog, of course, involves learning how to create a presence and establish a following out in the open, with the process fully exposed so everyone watching can learn along with me. Then we’ll learn how to use that presence and following to help leverage publishing success down the road, using me and my two books as a test tube.

Well, Ms. Katz has already traveled a similar road and stresses the importance of establishing and building a platform (there’s that word again) as the foundation for everything else on my particular list. But her book really clarifies the platform concept and offers simple, practical things for us to do to help move our dreams forward.

I haven’t finished the book yet and will report on relevant points in my next post. But one point rang especially clear: When we’re tracking things like hits on our websites and blogs, we need to be looking at numbers in the hundreds per day, in order to record real progress. And the numbers need to be in the thousands per day before our online presence signifies any sort of arrival.

Consequently, I do have a long way to go–but I still believe I’ll get there.

Plan Update

The new chapter I realized I needed to write in Separation of Faith (following the beta readers’ input) is now finished. That exercise was challenging, to say the least because, in addition to inserting a new chapter, I had to make sure that the linkage in the chapters immediately ahead of and behind the new one were smooth and accurate. As I complete the balance of the edit, I’ll probably do more tweaking, but I’m happy with what I see–and I absolutely cannot believe that I originally thought the book would work without that chapter! Thank heavens for those beta readers!

In another week, I hope to be ready to submit Separation of Faith to the publisher. Then, while they’re putting the manuscript through their own editing process (which will take several weeks), I’ll complete the edit of The Truth About Cinnamon. The move and being sick ended up costing me a full month, and I’m now trying to make some of that up. But in the long run, a few weeks one way or another won’t be very memorable twenty years from now … 🙂

Speaking of Cinnamon

Three of the planned seven issues are now available for free downloading (http://www.filedby.com/author/cheri_laser/2721580/documents/24081497/). Please let me know if you’re giving this a try. I’d love to hear from you!

The existing version of The Truth About Cinnamon will become an official 1st Edition next month, as soon as the re-edited version goes into production. I’m offering huge discounts through the book store on my website (www.TheTruthAboutCinnamon.com), if you’re interested in giving the whole thing a try.


Although I have a long way to go to reach the “arrived” level or even the “making good progress” level, the deal behind this blog is that I will share everything along the way. So, here’s where things stand today:

  • Blog Hits: 847 (last post: 737) This is a nice jump, but I need to figure out how to make this happen every day rather than every week.
  • Website: 35,088 (last post: 34,967)
  • Amazon Ranking: 2,523,108 (2,250,851) I don’t really think this one is going to move until the new version of Cinnamon is released. But I’m going to keep trying. Perhaps the free downloading will help generate a little interest.

Have a great week! I’m looking forward to talking with a lot of you as I’m tag surfing until my next post!

All the best to you–Cheri

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Even Petri Dishes Have Learning Curves

Today turned out to be a blog learning curve day because the petri dish approach is only going to work if I’m effectively using the blogging process. And even though I’ve been studying the subject for the last month, the scope of all the details wasn’t apparent until I actually launched the blog.

Now I need to master the technique and also develop a following, both of which will take some time. Today I began with the subject of tags: what they are, why they’re so important, how to add them to a post, and then how to use them to start letting others with similar interests know I’m here.

Tags in Blog Posts

Tomorrow I’m going to use one of the tags I created for the Launch Post (“How to get a novel published”) to find other people blogging on that subject. After searching for the most recent posts, I’m going to begin commenting on those posts and leaving my signature, so those bloggers can then find me in return. All the results will be shared in subsequent posts.

Blogging Tip

At the WD conference in September, one of the sessions covered tips on the subject of blogging and developing a following. One of those tips was to start following other bloggers, becoming involved with their dialogues. That contribution, we were told, generally leads to a good percentage of those bloggers then following you as well. So I’ll be getting up early to get that task rolling.

Publishing Plan Updates

In tomorrow’s post, I will provide updates on the publishing plan as well. The manuscript for my new novel, Separation of Faith, is presently in the hands of six beta readers who will be giving me critical input over the next several weeks. While I’m waiting for that input, some exciting things will be happening with respect to my first novel, The Truth About Cinnamon. Stay tuned for those details in the morning.

Tracking the Stats

Tomorrow I will also begin sharing stats like my book’s Amazon ranking and the number of hits on my website. This will be a painful process in the beginning because those numbers are currently rather dismal (but what else would you expect from obscurity, right?). The goal, of course, will be to watch those numbers improve as this experiment unfolds. So the baseline will be posted tomorrow for all to see.

That’s all for today. Good night.

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Introduction—A Publishing Petri Dish

Starting today, I’m placing my quest to be a published, recognizable author into a public petri dish. Every social media outlet utilized, every writer’s conference attended, every publication and relevant link uncovered will be shared. I want to try everything, documenting what doesn’t work with just as much clarity as what does.

This will enable anyone following my blog to track the ups and downs of my journey, especially other writers who are in the same boat I’m in at the moment, searching for the right combination of choices to make our dreams work. The open-kimono/petri dish nature of the blog will be designed to give any aspiring, struggling writers the opportunity to experiment and learn as I do.

Why This Blog … This Approach?

How did this start? Everything about my approach to this business of writing was turned inside out and upside down in September 2009, at the first annual three-day Writer’s Digest Writer’s Conference (www.writersdigestconference.com) held in New York City. When I registered, I imagined that the experience was going to be similar to the dozens of others I’ve had at conferences around the country over the last decade. A lineup of authors, editors, and agents would give presentations on various aspects of the writing craft, or on the art of the query letter, or on the elements of a successful pitch. Then there would be an opportunity at the end of the conference for interested attendees to sign up to pitch a book for 3-5 minutes to an agent or editor who would be bleary-eyed from listening to hundreds of fellow attendees doing the same thing. And, in truth, the Writer’s Digest Conference did have a little of that thrown in—but very little.

A Writer’s Conference that Spoke the Truth

This conference was different—way different. The primary focus was on reality—today’s reality—in the publishing industry. What a concept! And the topics didn’t address how things have changed in the last ten years, but how they’ve changed in the last few months. The presenters and subject matter were geared to show us how to adapt our approach(es) as authors, in an environment that is reshaped daily by technological updates and the expansion of social networking.

A Stunning Opening Line

The stand-out quality of this conference became evident in the Opening Address at 4:00 PM on Day 1. (Writer’s Digest staff members were writing live blogs during each of the conference sessions. At www.writersdigestconference.com you can still link into those blogs to get a sense of what was going on in those September 2009 sessions.) Mike Shatzkin (http://www.idealog.com/blog/), who delivered the conference’s opening address, is a digital publishing futurist with an extensive background in nearly every component of the publishing industry. His topic was “The Changing World of Book Publishing: An Author-Centric View.” I’m paraphrasing him, but basically he said that, in today’s publishing environment, your book, no matter how fabulous, is completely irrelevant if you don’t already have a clearly defined platform and a foundational readership/following in place before you ever submit a query letter.

The Platform Thing

I’ve heard the term “platform” before at conferences and have always had difficulty figuring out how to formulate one. A platform is a subject matter expertise, or life experience, or a specialty that uniquely qualifies you to write what you’re writing and that will draw readers to your books. But my books are fiction, each with a different plot, a different set of characters, and a message that shifts with each storyline. So the need to come up with a platform has been a constant source of frustration. (You can Google “what is an author platform” for mega information on the subject.) And when I heard Mike Shatzkin start talking about “platform,” my first thought was, “Here we go again.” But his declaration that my (or anyone’s) book was irrelevant without a platform, even prior to sending a query letter, had seized my attention.

The New Google Factor for Writers Who Are Querying

Then I heard the words that still echo in my head a month later. Again, I’m paraphrasing, but here’s the essence of what he said next (and what nearly every other speaker during the three days reiterated in some form): When we hopeful authors send a query letter to an agent or editor today (queries that we’ve attended numerous conferences and paid lots of fees to learn how to write successfully), the first thing that happens now in the agent/editor’s office is that someone Googles the name of the writer sending the letter. If nothing shows up that demonstrates some sort of following or platform already in place, one that’s relevant to the author and book being queried, we receive a rejection notice, usually by way of a pre-printed postcard or form letter. There are undoubtedly exceptions to this scenario, but for new, unknown, unpublished writers, that is the latest raw truth about what really happens.

If you haven’t done so already (or recently), Google yourself to see what agents and editors are seeing when they do the Googling. If there isn’t at least a page of links popping up that are directly related to your writing credits and readership following, then there is considerable work to be done, if dreams are going to stand a chance of being realized. Our platforms as fiction writers can stem from our sheer presence online, but we have to build that presence. Just sending query letters out to a list of agents and editors when we finish a book is no longer going to work.

The Impact of Social Media Outlets on Publishing Industry Changes

 So, what else should we be doing in addition to the query letters? Well, hopefully that’s where this blog will come in—helping with direction and specifics, as we all figure out together how to navigate the galactic shift in the way things now work in the publishing industry. And that shift has taken place due in no small part to social networking—things like Facebook, My Space, Twitter, blogging, or new resources such as FiledBy (www.filedby.com), where any author who has a book with an ISBN number will find a distinct author site already waiting for them. Authors with books coming out can make use of this resource as well.

These and other social networking options are rapidly changing the fabric and structure of the publishing industry. If we want to succeed in our dream of becoming published authors, we don’t have the option any longer of ignoring those networks. I’ve actually been staying away from them on purpose, not understanding their critical role in what I’m trying to accomplish. Now I’m scurrying to catch up.

The changes described above have been revolutionary, even within the last six months, not only due to the wildfire spread of social media outlets, but also to the development of reader alternatives such as Kindle and Sony Reader, and a host of other elements that were touched upon in the Writer’s Digest Conference. As the information began to flow, I was not the only one in the audience sitting there stunned. But as the shock began to wear off—and as the real, usable information kept on comingI realized how grateful I was to be in a place where I was finally hearing the truth about the industry I was trying to penetrate. And I was excited to learn that, throughout the conference, I was actually going to be presented with tools and resources to help me adapt my goals and dreams to this new, scary, and constantly shifting reality.

An Updated Impact of Self-Publishing/ POD Options on the Publishing Industry

By the morning of the conference’s second day, my previous writing and publishing to-do lists had been thrown out the window, and an entirely new approach had been born. Early elements of that plan will be outlined in a few moments. But first I want to mention another aspect of this conference that was different—the attitude about traditional publishing avenues versus the quality of choices now available through self-publishing and print-on-demand organizations. Again, the attitude was the difference.

Generally, agents and editors at writer’s conferences have not—at least in my experience—been interested in seeing submissions of books published through non-traditional avenues. But the Writer’s Digest Conference offered the opportunity to actually pitch such books to editors, during the 15-minute session (one per attendee) included with the conference fee.

With books that are self-published or published through “supported self-publishing” POD companies, there is a critical need to enlist professional editing services before moving forward with any sort of production, to ensure as high a quality as possible throughout the book. But assuming that the quality is in place, books published through non-traditional avenues are being viewed by those in the publishing industry with ever-increasing legitimacy. One of the reasons for this is the sheer volume.

In 2003, the annual output of new titles in the U.S. was approximately 200,000. By 2008—just five years later—the number of new titles published in the U.S. had reached 500,000! This growth is attributed almost exclusively to the self-publishing/print-on-demand industry. Last year, AuthorSolutions—a premiere POD mega-company—published six times more books than Random House! The number of titles published throughout all of the traditional publishing houses has basically been flat for several years.

Consequently, the traditional publishing companies now have staff devoted to the monitoring of books published through non-traditional avenues and are quick to pick up on titles that have some sort of “buzz” associated with them. As incongruous as this may sound, authors whose dreams remain focused on getting their book(s) into print through a traditional publishing house just might discover that the quickest way to that goal is to self-publish and aggressively promote a really great book.

A Traditional Publishing Buzz-Kill

Why do I say that self-publishing/POD might be the fastest way to an author’s realizing his or her traditional publishing goal? Because the time required for the traditional path is daunting. For example, let’s say that one of my carefully crafted (and repeatedly edited) query letters has finally reached an interested agent, and that agent has agreed to represent me and my book, starting today. That moment of exhilaration will most likely be followed by several months—possibly six or even twelve—of effort involved while that agent works to find an editor in some publishing house who views my book as promising.

Once that editor agrees to take on my book, he/she will then need time to “sell” the project up through the food chain in that publishing company—and there’s no guarantee that the editor will prevail. But let’s say that the editor is successful, and the publishing house powers-that-be agree to buy my book. After all the negotiations are complete (between the agent and me, and the agent and the publisher) and the contracts are signed, another series of edits will be required on the book to satisfy the editor/publishing house.

By the time the editing is finished and my book is lined up in the publishing queue, about 18 more months (possibly longer) will have passed before the entire production process is complete and the book is actually published and released. So, for new, unknown, unpublished writers, we’re looking at two (maybe three) years from the time our perfect query letters reach an agent who has agreed to represent us and the moment when we hold our printed books in our hands.

Coming to grips with that reality is enough to make your average aspiring author begin studying the alternatives.

And What About Money?

Real writers don’t start chasing this dream for the money. They write because they have no choice—they are driven to do so by something they can’t stop. But let’s take a minute to talk about money anyway. The financial advance agreed to in the publishing contract is generally divided into thirds: the first third paid upon contract signing; the second third paid upon receipt of the manuscript edited and/or reworked to meet the publisher’s criteria; and the final third paid when the book comes out.

There are variations to this doling out of the advance money, but no one (especially new, unknown authors) receives the whole advance up front. And when the book finally does come out, publishing houses now require the author to do the yeoman’s share of marketing and promotion, keeping in mind that the advance received needs to be repaid before the author gets any more money.

Advance repayment is based on the royalty percentage per book in the author’s contract. Here’s an example in round numbers: The contract says the author receives a 20% royalty per book (contracts range from 10-20% royalties on average). The book retails for $20, and the author is paid $4 per book (with payment received quarterly, in the middle of the next quarter). So, let’s say the author received a $5000 advance (small but not unusual for new, unknown, unpublished writers). At $4 per book, 1250 books would have to be sold to repay the advance—and Barnes & Noble’s own statistics show that the average number of books sold at non-celebrity book signings is one/1. That’s correct. One!

Needless to say, booksellers are not doing very many book signings these days. As a result, authors need to figure out other ways to get their books sold—and that’s where the whole social media and platform things come in.

But we can’t wait until our books are published to start building our plan and readership following. We have to create the forum and the audience for our books before we even have a book.

Yes, the publishing world is very different than the one in existence when a lot of us began pursuing our dreams of becoming published authors. And there’s an old definition of insanity that rings true here: We can’t keep doing the same things over and over again while expecting different results. We have to change with the world around us.

The Early Stages of My Petri Dish Plan

We’ve already discussed the idea that a professionally edited, quality, self-published/print-on-demand book could already be in the hands of thousands of readers at least two years before the same book would even be released by a traditional publishing house. (Start-to-finish production time, including editing services, for a “supported self-publishing” company averages 3-6 months. And then, if the author can document sales of 2000 books or more, a traditional publishing house just might end up with an interest in the book anyway, still giving the author a chance to realize that aspect of the dream. Selling 2000 books takes a lot of work, but the author will need to carry most of that weight, regardless of how the book is published. Sinking oneself into the world of social media should make that job a little easier.

Well, I guess we’ll see about that. My first novel, The Truth About Cinnamon (www.TheTruthAboutCinnamon.com) was published through iUniverse www.iuniverse.com (now part of AuthorSolutions) in December 2003. Since then, I finished my second novel, Separation of Faith, and worked as a freelance editor (see my blog bio), a job that ended up improving my own writing as an unexpected byproduct. Thus, I’ve believed for several years now that I could use my editing experience to cut about 100 pages from my first novel—so that’s what I’m going to do.

I’ve made the decision to publish Separation of Faith using iUniverse again. While that new book is in the production process, I’m going to edit The Truth About Cinnamon into a second edition, which will then be released several weeks ahead of Separation of Faith, which is targeted for early second quarter 2010. The goal is to incorporate everything I’ve learned over the last six years with all of the social networking tools I can get my hands on. Promotions for both the new novel and the second edition of the first novel will begin in earnest well ahead of the books release dates.

But as fast as things are changing, I will still be learning as I go—only this time I’ll be sharing what works and what doesn’t through this blog, so others might benefit as well.

Another Upcoming Relevant Conference

On December 15th and 16th, I will be attending another conference in New York City—“Innovations in Digital Publishing”—which will be a perfect follow-on to the Writer’s Digest Conference last month. Check out the conference program details at www.MediaBistro.com. Scroll down and look for “Events” in the left hand column. Click on “eBook Summit—December 15-16.”

Follow the Writer’s Digest website (www.writersdigest.com) as well for a wide assortment of articles, tools, and events that are designed to aid us in our journeys.

Conclusion to My New Blog’s First Post

My goal is to write every day in this blog, reflecting on what I’m doing as I move through this exciting new process. I’m also looking forward to sharing comments and hearing ideas from others who have similar interests and goals.

I believe very strongly that there’s enough room in this dream for all of us, but we need to get our arms around the realities of the publishing world and then take control of our own destinies. Here’s to the journey! See you tomorrow. 

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